Sociology – Law of Three Stages by Auguste Comte

Law of Three Stages: The Corner Stone of Auguste Comte’s theories

Sociology Honours

Auguste Comte is a French thinker who made stellar contributions to Sociology. His unique contribution to Sociology is The Law of Three Stages’. This lawexplainshow humansare becoming more and more rational and scientific in their approach by gradually giving up dogmas, speculations, imagination etc. Comte has demonstrated the corelation between intellectual evolution and social progress. The three stages refer to three stages of mental and social development. It is the co-ordination of feeling, thought and action in individuals and in society. There are three important aspects of our nature, such as
1. Our feelings,
2. Our thought and 3. Our actions.

Our feelings:
The emotions and impulses which prompt us.

Our thought:
These are undertaken in the service of our feelings but also helps to govern them.

Our actions:
These are undertaken in the service of our feelings and thought. For the continuity and existence of society there must be some order of institutions, values, beliefs and knowledge which can successfully co-relate the feelings, thought and activity of its members.

According to Comte, each of our leading conceptions-each branch of our knowledge passes successively through different theoretical conditions:
1. The Theological or fictitious,
2. The Metaphysical or abstract,
3. The Scientific or positive.

Comte argued that there has been an evolution in the human thinking. As a result, each succeeding stage is superior to and more evolved than the preceding stage. This law appeared in the year 1822 in his book Positive Philosophy.

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The Theological or Fictitious stage:

The theological stage is the first and it characterised the world prior to 1300 AD. Here all theoretical conceptions, whether general or special bear a supernatural impression. At this level of thinking logical and orderly thinking is generally absent. Overall, the theological thinking implies belief in super natural power.
This type of thinking is found among the primitive races. In theological stage, all natural phenomena and social events were explained in terms of super natural forces and deities, which ultimately explains everything as the product of God’s will. This stage is dominated by priests and ruled by military men.

Human mind is dominated by sentiments, feelings and emotions. Every phenomenon was believed to be the result of immediate actions of super-natural beings. Explanations take the form of myths concerning spirits and super natural beings.

Man seeks the essential nature of all beings, first and final causes, origins and purposes of all effects and the overriding belief that all things are caused by super natural beings. Theology means discourse in religion. Religion dominates in this state of development. This state is characterised by conquest. The theological—military society was basically dying. Priests were endowed with intellectual and spiritual power, while military exercised temporal authority.

It has three sub-stages:

(i) Fetishism:
‘Fetish’ means non-living and ‘ism’ means philosophy. This is a philosophy which believes that super natural power dwells in non-living objects. Fetishism as a form of religion didn’t recognise priests. However, too many fetishes created confusion for people. Hence, they started believing in several gods. Thus, arose polytheism.

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(ii) Polytheism:
‘Poly’ means many. So the belief in many Gods is called polytheism. Human being received variety or diversity of natural phenomena. Each phenomenon was kept under the disposal of one God. One God was believed to be in charge of one particular natural phenomenon. It necessitated the existence of many gods. This led to confusion. Finally, they developed the idea of one God, i.e. monotheism.

(iii) Monotheism:
It means belief in one single God. He is all in all. He controls everything in this world. He is the maker of human destiny. Monotheism is the climax of the theological stage of thinking.

In theological stage, soldiers, kings, priests etc. were given respect in the society. Everything was considered in terms of family welfare. Love and affection bonded the members of a family together. In this stage social organisation is predominantly of a military nature. It is the military power which provides the basis of social stability and conquest which enlarges the bounds of social life.

(a) Progress is observable in all aspects of society: physical, moral, intellectual and political.

(b) The intellectual is the most important. History is dominated by the development of ideas leading to changes in other areas.

(c) Auguste Comte says on the “Co-relations” between basic intellectual stages and stages of material development, types of social units, types of social order and sentiments.

———-To be continued———-

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